Arkansas: last bastion of the Southern Democrat poised to fall
Polls suggest that Arkansas' House contingent could flip from three Democrats to three Republicans Tuesday. One of the seats has been Democratic since Reconstruction.
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In January, Rep. Marion Berry, who was elected by the impoverished First District in 1996, announced his retirement. So did Rep. Vic Snyder, who was elected by the Second District in 1996, as well. With incumbents out of the way, Republicans seized the momentum at a time when the state’s political landscape is shifting from conservative, so-called Blue Dog Democrats to Republicans.Skip to next paragraph
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In the Second, Tim Griffin, a former aide in the Bush White House and a military veteran, leads Democratic candidate Joyce Elliott, a state legislator who is seeking to become the first black to represent Arkansas in Washington, by 12 points, according to a Oct. 14 Hendrix College poll.
In the First, Congressman Berry’s chief of staff, Chad Causey, is running for his boss’ current seat. Polling is more mixed in the race between Mr. Causey and the GOP candidate, Rick Crawford, a broadcaster, but the Hendrix poll gave Mr. Crawford an 8 point edge.
One-party state no more
Arkansas has long been largely a one-party state, even when former Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee held office. In recent year, Democrats have often put their hopes on Mr. Clinton and his long-time party allies to keep Arkansas solidly blue – especially in the First District, which has a large African-American population.
But the state has been trending away from centrist beliefs toward more conservative ones for several election cycles. Arkansas voted overwhelmingly for Sen. John McCain for president in 2008. This year, Clinton has visited Arkansas twice since September to rally the Democratic base, but some polls show his efforts have not been effective.
A Republican stronghold in the state is likely for several cycles, some pundits say, because the playing field has changed.
“We remained a Democratic state long after other parts of the South due to a blend of mountain populism and personality-based politics,” says Rex Nelson, a former newspaper political editor who also worked for Mr. Huckabee. "There are some young Republicans who have come on the scene who are much more engaging than a lot of the past GOP candidates in Arkansas…. The populism is now manifesting itself into votes for Republicans.”